Escaflowne – “the movie”

October 20, 2005 on 10:09 pm | In Escaflowne | Comments Off on Escaflowne – “the movie”

Escaflowne is one of my favourite TV series; its blend of fantasy, SF, romance and tarot made for an intriguing story. The series had an excellent (if controversial) conclusion, and so this is an “alternate telling”. Fear the worst, find something better than that, I say: in this incarnation of Escaflowne, I found a beautiful, semi-coherent film that did not try to resemble its origins in any way whatsoever.

Kanzaki Hitomi is a Japanese high school student who, in a half arsed way, wants to kill herself. Instead, she gets transported to the world of Gaea (here translated as Gaia), where she is hailed as the white goddess who will wake Escaflowne.
However, more than one person wants the white goddess: to destroy the world or to liberate it! Fate will decide.

Escaflowne is another quasi-apocalyptic film, but oes a much better job of it than, say, X. The whole movie is really just a giant, not very subtle, metaphor for suicide: that is, don’t do it.

The love polygon of the series is mercifully omitted in favour of something about “loneliness”. One can kind of get a feeling for Van, the true king of Gaea, and his depair; however, the way that Hitomi makes him realise himself seems rather trite, as forced as so many anime film relationships have to be given time constraints.

In the series we had the Zaibach Empire, the leader of whom was one of the most bizarre leaps in anime history. In the film, we have Folken, who has been redesigned from his TV incarnation to resemble David Bowie in Labyrinth. To cast Folken as an almost pure villain, he needs to be considerably regeared. The character is supposed to be tragic, even here, but it’s hard to feel it. Folken gives a profound closing line, but it’s not the right sort of profundity considering all that he has done before it.

There’s a new character, too: the bizarre Sora, who sings songs and has visions and some sort of relationship to Folken, an inextricable psychic link; I don’t know … Folken’s empire isn’t really good enough to have oppressed the land, or to have enslaved this character to his ends. On the positive side, the film didn’t even attempt to explain the beauty that is Dilandau, so we’re left with an intensely psychotic warrior.

The movie looks very good, with Nobuteru Yuuki’s traditional “sharp noses” being toned down, and only one character shot that looks truly bad in the whole thing. The early scenes are full of the sort of gratuitous, unnecessary violence for which anime became known in the nineties; somehow the action is actually pretty boring on the whole.
The key form of battle in this world is supposed to be giant suits of armour, yet this film features only two suits and they battle very half-heartedly. The new addition to the array of battles is psychic fighting, which is represented hilariously as “battling foreheads”: essentially every time Van, Dilandau or Folken uses one of these attacks, the camera closes in on the tops of their heads and a gust bursts forth. It’s not supposed to be funny, but it is; faint ridiculousness is nothing to be ashamed of.

Escaflowne is an odd duck of a film: it leans on the series for assumed knowledge while openly contradicting it. It’s certainly not a bad movie, by any stretch, and the ending is beautifully understated, but do you really need another ninety minutes in Gaea if they are going to be this bleak?

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